costolo 088

Prior to joining Twitter, Dick Costolo spent two years working with Susan Wojcicki at Google. During those two years, he learned a few things that he would apply to his work at Twitter first as its chief operating officer and then as its chief executive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two things he mentioned during tonight’s PandoMonthly event were about quantification and communication.

“One of [the things I learned from at Google] were the OKRs [objectives and key results] — basically quantifying your goals every quarter and measuring yourself against those goals — and using them more as a communication vehicle for what you’re trying to do as opposed to a performance evaluation,” Costolo said. “We’ve adopted that at Twitter. I think that was a super effective way of communicating context to other teams about what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to accomplish.”

It isn’t surprising that a former comedian, coder, and operations specialist would appreciate quantifiable feedback. Comedians learn what material does or doesn’t work based on an audience’s reaction to their jokes; coders learn what methods do or don’t work based on whether or not their software works the way it’s intended; and operations specialists need to quantify performance to ensure that a company remains healthy. Focusing on communication through quantification is just the thing that separates Costolo from the bumbling consultants from “Office Space.”

“One of the things I always tell my managers at Twitter [is,] make sure everybody understands what you understand,” Costolo said. “Make sure everybody has context for why you’re doing X, Y, and Z. And when you set these very explicit, objective metrics for what you’re trying to do this quarter and this year, other teams can go look at those and see very clearly, this is what this team is trying to accomplish.”

Again, that approach isn’t necessarily surprising. If the chief executive of a newly-public company based entirely on the idea that humans can effectively communicate through 140-character missives and hyperlinks doesn’t believe that clear communication is important, Twitter’s got some problems. And besides — what kind of (former) comedian would Costolo be if he weren’t able to get his ideas across in a clear, concise way?

[Photo by Yelena Sophia for Panodaily]